The Acropolis and Parthenon, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ancient Agora, Kerameikos, and Hadrian's Library number among the most important Athens ruins to see when visiting.
Ancient city of Athens
Ancient Athens was the cultural heart of the classical Greek world. Between 508–322 BC, the city was a center for arts, philosophy, trade, learning, and development.
During this time, many magnificent buildings were constructed within the city of Athens, some of which still survive today.
Interested in exploring the remains of ancient Athens when you visit the city? Here's all you need to know!
How To See Ancient Athens
Over the last two thousand years, Athens has endured countless invasions, occupations, earthquakes and disasters.
In fact, it is something of a miracle that any buildings and monuments have survived from ancient Athens at all. They must have known a thing or two about building things back then!
When visiting Athens, you should make a point to see at least some of the incredible ancient sites that the city has to offer.
There are two ways you can see the surviving buildings from the classical period in Athens. One, is to simply take a self guided walking tour around Athens and soak up the ambience from the outside without going in to the archaeological complexes themselves.
The other, is to pay to go into each of the ancient sites of Athens – the price of which can soon mount up!
If you plan to see all the Athens ancient sites though, there is a combined entrance ticket that offsets some of this price.
Related: What is Athens famous for?
The Athens Combined Ticket
The combined ticket has a price of 30 Euros, and allows access to the following sites: Acropolis of Athens, North slope of the Acropolis, South Slope of Acropolis, Ancient Agora of Athens and Museum, Archaeological Site and Museum of Kerameikos, Hadrian's Library, Lykeion Archaeological Site, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Roman Agora of Athens.
You should note that you can only enter each site once, and that the tickets must be used within 5 days of purchase.
This combined ticket offers pretty good value if you have the time to visit all of these ancient places in Athens. You can buy it at any of the sites entrances (I recommend the Temple of Zeus rather than the Acropolis).
Also, you can get an e-ticket version of this at the official government site you can find here: etickets.tap.gr
That website looks like it was designed in the early 1990s, but I am assured it works!
Ancient Sites Athens
Here is a list of the most significant buildings and sites to see in Athens. They are all centrally located in what is often referred to as the historic center, so they are easy to reach either on foot or by the metro.
There are of course many more minor sites and areas you can see if you have time. If you ever see a brown road sign with a name written on it, it's pointing the way to a place of historical and cultural significance in Athens.
Many visitors tend to spend just a few days in Athens though. These are the most important sites in Athens to consider visiting.
1. The Acropolis Site Complex
If there is one place not to miss during a visit to Athens, it's the Acropolis. This huge ancient citadel set on a rocky outcrop must have been an awe-inspiring sight two thousand years ago. It doesn't look too shabby today either!
Dominating the landscape, it houses many important buildings, such as the Parthenon and the Erechtheion. The slopes contain other notable structures such as the Herodeion Theatre, and the Theatre of Dionysus.
The views from the top out over the city of Athens can be stunning. Best avoided during the hottest times of the day, it is the most visited archaeological site in Greece.
One of the most famous landmarks in Greece, if not the world, the Acropolis is a UNESCO site you should visit once in your life.
2. Ancient Agora in Athens
Whilst the Acropolis may have been the defensive and then religious heart of ancient Athens, the ancient Agora was the nerve centre for trade, commerce, and culture.
This is the area where people came to buy and sell goods, talk politics, and generally hang around, making it one of the most important places in ancient Athens.
Although the Agora has been destroyed several times, enough of it remains to give an indication of the scale of the place. For me, the highlight is the Temple of Hephaistos, one of the finest and most complete temples in all of Greece.
3. Temple of Zeus
In many ways, I find this temple area more impressive than the Parthenon. The sheer scale of it is incredible.
Dedicated to the King of the Olympian Gods, it must have been a colossal undertaking and wonderful sight to behold.
Many of the columns have fallen down over the centuries, and a few have been restored. In 2022, some of the columns were surrounded by scaffolding as more repair works are undertaken.
You can take some great pictures from here with the Acropolis in the background.
4. Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos
This is one of the most under-rated sites in Athens. Often ignored by visitors on a tight schedule, it is perhaps one of the key surviving areas dating back from the classical period.
The cemetery itself was used for many years, and artefacts found in the tombs have helped cast a light onto life in ancient Athens. The archaeological complex also has sections of the city wall, which helps to give an idea of what the city looked like many years ago.
If you have time, pay it a visit! You can find out more about it here – Cemetery and Museum of Kerameikos.
5. Hadrian's Library
You can find Hadrian's Library opposite the Monastiraki metro station. In my opinion, paying an entrance fee just to enter this site is not really worth it, but if you've gone for the combined ticket, it will only take 20 minutes or so to walk around.
6. Roman Agora
This small site, dating from the Roman period of occupation of Athens, is another archaeological space only worth entering if you have the combined ticket – at least I think so!
In fact, you can more or less walk all around the Roman Agora and get great views looking down onto it for free!
7. Aeropagus Hill
Sometimes known as the sacred rock, this small site is free to enter, and is opposite both the Acropolis and Ancient Agora. This is a good place to visit for photos of the Acropolis!
Named after the God of War Aries, during the Roman era it was sometimes called Mars Hill. This rocky outcrop is the same place that Saint Paul gave a sermon – which wasn't well received by the ancient Athenians!
Museums in Athens
Over the years, countless objects and artefacts have been found at the ancient sites in Athens. Most of these are kept in the city in a variety of museums. (With some notable exceptions – don't mention the Elgin marbles)!
I have been working on a project to visit every museum in Athens. As there are over 80, it is still a work in progress! The museums you should visit in order to see the most significant artefacts dating back to the heyday of ancient Athens are –
The Acropolis Museum – Considered one of the best museums in Greece. Containing objects and artefacts discovered at the Acropolis complex, and places them into context.
The National Archaeological Museum – My favourite museum in Athens. You probably need to block out 3 hours to make the most of this place. This is the best place to increase your knowledge of ancient Athens, and Greece in general.
The Cycladic Art Museum – The top floor has a great display about daily life in ancient Athens.
The Museum of the Ancient Agora – I would recommend visiting the museum before walking around the Agora itself. It is included on the same ticket.
6. Metro Stations
It is often said that you can dig anywhere in Athens, and find something of historical value. This was certainly the case when they were building the underground metro lines! Countless artefacts were discovered, along with sections of walls, and building foundations.
A number of the metro stations have objects on display from ancient Athens. When you use the metro, be sure to check out each station! If you only want to visit one, then make it Syntagma station. You do not need a ticket to see the objects on display there.
Walking Tours in Athens
I have plenty of free guides throughout this site that can help you put together your own self-guided walking tour to see ancient Athens. Sometimes though, it is nice to take a guided tour. This way, you get a deeper appreciation of the city and explore other Athens neighborhoods. Take a look here to find out about walking tours in Athens.
I hope that has given you enough information on which parts of ancient Athens you can still visit today. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, and I will do my best to answer them. If you think I have missed anything out, you can mention that below as well!
Archaeological Sites in Athens FAQ
Readers who want to see the important ancient sites of Athens when they visit Greece often have questions similar to:
What ancient ruins are in Athens?
The most important archaeological site is the stunning Acropolis hill which houses famous buildings like the iconic Parthenon, dedicated to the Goddess Athena. Other notable sites include the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Roman Agora, Ancient Agora, and Kerameikos site.
Is the Acropolis an archaeological site?
The Acropolis is a UNESCO site and is one of the main archaeological sites in Greece.
Where are the best preserved Greek ruins?
While the Parthenon is the most famous ancient Greek temple in Athens, the Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Athenian Agora is one of the best preserved temples in the Greek capital.
What is the most famous Greek temple?
Of all the ancient temples in Greece, it is the Parthenon which is the most well known and iconic.
Pin this guide to Athens archaeological sites
Further Information About Athens
I have put together some useful guides on Athens that you might find useful when planning your trip.
- Athens Tours – The best tours and activities in Athens city.
- 2 Days in Athens – A guide on what to see and do during 2 days in Athens.
- 3 Days in Athens – A sightseeing itinerary for people spending three days in Athens.
- Where to stay in Athens – Hotels near the Acropolis – Stay at one of the hotels near the Acropolis and make the most of your time in Athens.
- Vravrona Archaeological Site Near Athens
- Day Trips from Athens – A selection of the best day trips from Athens
- How to get from Athens Airport to the city centre – A guide to using the bus, metro, and airport taxi service from Athens International Airport.
- The best historical monuments in Greece – How many of these ancient sites have you visited?
- What to see in Athens – A guide to all the main historical buildings and landmarks of Athens.
- Amazing facts about Ancient Greece – Some quirky and fun Ancient Greece facts.
Dave is a travel writer who has been living in Greece since 2015. In addition to this travel blog post about ancient sites in Athens Greece, you will find hundreds of other insights, guides, and itineraries for Greece on this site.Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from Greece and beyond: